New ULTIMATES Creative Team Ready to 'Disassemble'

Ultimate Comics

Ultimates #25


June 2013 is set to be a banner month in the comic book writing career of Joshua Hale Fialkov. Not only is he taking over monthly duties on Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns at DC, but he's coming on board Marvel's Ultimate Comics Ultimates that same month, joining the series with new artist Carmine Di Giandomenico as of issue #25.

Along with the new creative team comes a new phase of the book, with Fialkov and Di Giandomenico's first issue starting the "Ultimates Disassembled" story arc — a title clearly intended to parallel Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch's eventful 2004 "Avengers Disassembled."

Newsarama has the first interview with Fialkov on Ultimates, and talked the major upheaval coming to the series, plus the important roles played by The Hulk, Reed Richards, Quicksilver and a character to be named later. Additionally, we've got comments from departing series writer Sam Humphries and Ultimate Comics line editor Mark Paniccia, plus brand-new interior pages from issue #25 by Di Giandomenico.

Newsarama: Josh, June is poised to be a huge month for you, as you'll be doing two DC books and one Marvel, both ongoing. 

Joshua Hale Fialkov: Technically two Marvel books, because I'm still doing Alpha. And I'm still doing I, Vampire, which we're wrapping up — we're finishing up #19 right now, the last few pages are still coming in.

Interior art from  

Ultimate Comics

Ultimates #25.

It's a very weird time. It's awesome and everything's great, but if you include all the work I've already written but doing production, I'm doing Doctor Who at IDW, I'm doing Alpha, I'm doing one of the Adventures of Superman stories, two Ultimates a month, and Green and Red. And I, Vampire. And The Devilers at Dynamite. So I'm doing like eight books right now. It's a bit much.

Nrama: So how'd you end up with the Ultimate Comics Ultimates gig?

Fialkov: Right place, right time? I'm actually a big fan of Ultimates editor Mark Paniccia's work. We'd talked years ago, early on in both of our careers, but hadn't really stayed in touch. Anyways, there was one week where a bunch of books Mark has edited all came out at once, and they were all, to a one, terrific. So, I dropped him a fan letter.  I love seeing the stamp of a good editor on a bunch of books. And Mark's stamp is on them in the best way possible, which is they're all great, they all have their creators voice, and they all have a confidence that you get from a supportive editor. So, I sent a fan letter, and they needed a writer for the Ultimates, and I think that combined with Sam being a friend sealed the deal.  

Nrama: Right, you're both LA guys.

Fialkov: Sam and I are buddies. I've known Sam for a super-long time. He and I talk regularly, and get lunch whenever we can.

[We] talk on the phone probably once every week or two to just sort of go over how we can bridge the gap. While certainly you don't have to have read anything to read my run, I wanted to make sure to follow up on everything that's gone before. I'm looking at the book as a way to kind of tie the Ultimate Universe together. I look at the book as being the cornerstone for a lot of the events and a lot of what's gone on in the Ultimate Universe, and I want to try and honor all the work that's been done before.


Nrama: Sam, what can you tell us about your decision to leave the series?

Sam Humphries: It's not easy for me to leave the Ultimates. I love this book and I love these characters — they have been a special home to me since the dawn of my days at Marvel. But was offered another project I couldn't pass up, and something on my schedule had to give.

This is truly a Watch the Throne moment — Josh is going to rock the Ultimate Universe like a Category 5 hurricane. Fialkov is equal parts talent and madness. He's going to go after Ultimate Cap, Thor, and Iron Man like a monster unleashed. It's going to be a disaster for them, but a fantastic read for the rest of us. I can't wait to be a fan of the Ultimates again.

Nrama: Josh, is the cast going to be similar to the previous run?

Fialkov: It's not, at all! It's not even the same cast. Screw those guys!

Our first story arc is called "Ultimates Disassembled." By the end of this arc, we will have an entirely new set of Ultimates. They will be five of my favorite characters in the Ultimate Universe. The first thing I did when I came in was like, "Look, here's the thing, we've seen these characters for the past 10 years now. Let's explore what it means to live in a world without them."

If you've been reading Ultimates, Sue Storm and Thor have been out discovering the Infinity Gems. Page 1 of issue #25 is Ultimate Hulk wearing two Infinity Gauntlets. That's where we start. That was my pitch — "Page 1, extreme close-up on the Hulk, two Infinity Gauntlets, saying, 'You guys are screwed.'" And they were like, "Alright, we don't even know what that is, but we're on board." Reed Richards, the Hulk, Quicksilver and a mysterious fourth character to be revealed have been essentially scheming and planning to take control of the Infinity Gauntlets and remake the world.


Reed Richards as a villain in the Ultimate Universe has always been so interesting to me, because I don't think he's a villain. I think he's horribly misunderstood. Him and Tony Stark, these are two really smart guys who are playing chess against everybody else on Earth. Tony Stark sort of does it in this laissez-faire way. Reed is doing it hardcore. He's going to win, and winning means saving the world whether it likes it or not. So all the terrible things that he's done, we're going to start seeing that there's not just repercussions, but there's a meaning and a motive behind a lot of it.

The Fantastic Four are probably my favorite of all the Marvel characters, and I think the Ultimate Fantastic Four were so interesting, and there's so much cool stuff that they've done and they've been through that is actually a lot of the cornerstones of the Ultimate Universe. I really want to go back not just to the early Ultimates, but also to the Ultimate Fantastic Four series, and the Galactus event, and their understanding of the cosmos as it applies to trying to live on this tiny planet.

It's a redemption story. The story we're telling is about four characters who have done horrendously horrible things trying to prove to the world that they did those horrible things for a reason. If you look at the Bruce Banner stuff in Ultimates #1, that's what Banner's doing. Banner becomes Hulk specifically because he knows that's what the world needs, and he knows that he'll be blamed for it, and that he'll be pilloried for it. And yet, his commitment to the survival and growth of mankind is so strong that he sacrifices his humanity and everything about him. That is a great, tragic character. That's the stuff that really sings for me, and really gets me going.

Ultimate Comics

Ultimates #24


Nrama: It sure sounds like you're changing things up in a big way — it's clearly not a coincidence that your first arc is called "Disassembled" — which has kind of been the MO of the Ultimates books for a while now, to shake things up even if they already have been thoroughly shaken up. Was that the mindset going in?

Fialkov: Yeah. I mean, we can. The difference between the Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Universe is that we can do horrible, horrible things to these characters that in the Marvel Universe would be an approval process. I think in the Ultimate Universe, because the characters are these other versions, we get a little bit more latitude. They killed Wolverine, for god's sake.

There's a level of freedom to it. I think part of the way the Ultimate books have survived as long as they have and done so well is that. There was a point kind of early on in the run where I think Bendis and Mark Millar and Mike Carey, everybody who was working on the books, realized, "Oh, right, we don't have to do what was done already. We can tell new stories with these characters, and we can alter their status quos." I think the change with Miles Morales was probably the biggest hallmark of that. When Bendis realized, "Oh, I can just kill Peter Parker" — because that's what would happen. That is what would happen to that kid! There's no possible way that he would have that many people try to kill him and none of them would succeed. By changing it in that fundamental way, I think you're kind of giving the rest of us freedom to try and experiment and do different things.


I'm writing three team books, and writing the Ultimates is so, so different from Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns. Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns, while every character has their own motivation, they have an oath. They have a legacy that they're upholding. They have something they believe in. The Ultimates don't have that. The Ultimates are people living their lives in a way that almost defies typical comic book convention. While at the same time, my love of Hulk smashing things brings in that comic book-y element. I love watching the Hulk smash things — especially Infinity Gauntlet-ed Hulk. It's really a thing to behold.

Nrama: So it sounds like you're definitely eyeing this for the long haul? Are you planning a long-term run?

Fialkov: I want to be on the book until they fire me for the horrible things I've done. [Laughs.]

It's this funny thing where I've spent so much of my career working on books that are on the verge of cancellation. Working on I, Vampire; where every issue is like, "Oh, this is it, we're going to get cancelled." Or working on my creator-owned books where it's, "Please god, buy the book!" To work on these three franchises and know that I have freedom to tell stories, I have freedom to take time, and I have freedom to do the crazy sh*t that I want to do without having to do it, essentially, for publicity. I get to tell big stories because these books have an audience that love the books. To have the freedom to not have to worry about that stuff is really liberating, and it's a blast.

Nrama: And what a change in your perceived status quo, given that all three of these books were announced after I, Vampire was revealed to be ending, and it wasn't publicly clear what might be next for you.


Fialkov: There was a period of time in between when I knew I, Vampire was cancelled, and nobody else did, and I didn't have any other work, really. I had a couple of small things here and there. It's very satisfying. I'm pulling into my 12th year in comics, and it's nice to finally get my fists up and start fighting my ass off. It's a good feeling.

Nrama: And it's your Marvel ongoing, which has to be a feather in the cap of a comic book writer, certainly.

Fialkov: Yeah! Working at both companies is really liberating, too. It's nice because both environments are so different. You get to see how the sausage is made on both sides of the street — the things that are the same, the things that are different. There's so much rampant speculation on the Internet about how both companies are run, and I get to see the truth.

Nrama: How has it been working with new series artist Carmine Di Giandomenico so far?

Fialkov: His work is just unbelievable. It's crazy, because I write stuff that I'm like, "There's no way he could possibly draw that," and then sure enough, he draws the hell out of it. It's remarkable. He's incredibly talented. I literally can't wait until people see what he's doing. That first page is the most beautiful things that I've ever seen in my entire life. It's really something spectacular to behold.


Nrama: Mark, from your position as editor, what makes this team the right choice for Ultimate Comics Ultimates?

Mark Paniccia: Josh has brought an amazing amount of energy and enthusiasm to the table. Without hesitation he accepted the challenge of taking this book in directions way different than all the great writers before him. I’m really happy with the scripts thus far.

When we initially spoke on the phone about the characters, we really connected on their motives and strategies and he had ideas about them and the universe that seriously blew my mind. Be prepared for a change-up you weren't expecting and believe me when I say things move fast and furious. This thing is paced at rocket speed.

Carmine Di Giandomenico has hit the ground running as well, and is delivering detailed and powerful pages. I was just checking out this week’s new pages and I’m in awe. They're brilliant and push the envelope of visual storytelling. We’ve got him for this first pulse-pounding arc and I think fans are going to love what they see. He's backed by some great talent too — inker Lorenzo Ruggiero and Jim Charalampidis on colors. The finished pages are amazing.

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